Johannesburg (AFP) – South Africa converted a penalty that should not have been awarded as they beat Senegal 2-1 Saturday to boost their chances of reaching the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

It was a must-win matchday 2 qualifier for the hosts in northern city Polokwane and they survived a late onslaught from the visitors to collect maximum points and top Group D.

South Africa have four points and Senegal three while Burkina Faso, who have one, and pointless Cape Verde meet in Praia later Saturday.

Why the Ghanaian referee gave South Africa a penalty for hand-ball on 43 minutes was a mystery as no home player appealed when a header struck Kalidou Koulibaly.

Big-screen replays at the Peter Mokaba Stadium showed the ball hitting the Napoli defender between his legs and never touching either hand.

Goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo got a hand to the spot-kick from captain Thulani Hlatshwayo, but the shot had too much power and landed in the corner of the net.

South Africa doubled their lead in first-half stoppage-time when Thulani Serero claimed only his second goal in 34 international appearances.

Slick, short passing bewildered the Senegal defence and the Ajax Amsterdam midfielder scored with a low shot past a motionless Diallo. 

Senegal dominated the second half and deservedly halved the deficit 14 minutes from time when Cheikh N’Doye slammed the ball into the net from close range after two blocked attempts. 

South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune made several brave late saves as the west Africans chased an equaliser in vain.

Bottom seeds Uganda went to the top of Group E after a Farouk Miya goal earned a 1-0 home victory over Congo Brazzaville in Kampala.

Belgium-based teenager Miya beat Wolfrigon Ngobo from inside the box on 18 minutes after passing unlocked the Congo defence at Mandela National Stadium.

Uganda have four points, Egypt three, Ghana one and Congo none with Egypt hosting Ghana in Alexandria Sunday.

Cameroon and Zambia drew 1-1 in Atlantic city Limbe, a result that suited neither team in Group B, which includes Nigeria and Algeria.

Seven-time World Cup qualifiers Cameroon were expected to win after drawing in Algeria last month while Zambia needed maximum points following a home defeat by Nigeria.

Collins Mbesuma tapped in a Rainford Kalaba cross to put Zambia ahead on 34 minutes and Vincent Aboubakar levelled by converting a penalty five minutes into first-half stoppage-time.